Clause 13. — (Second Television Service Provided by Authority.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Television Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th June 1963.

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Photo of Mr Donald Chapman Mr Donald Chapman , Birmingham, Northfield 12:00 am, 27th June 1963

If the hon. Member has read it, I am glad to hear him say so, but he cannot possibly have read all the paragraphs in it which advocate a second channel for commercial television.

The hon. Member devoted a large part of his argument to saying that one of the reasons why the Government were resisting his demands was that they have fallen for the Pilkington Report. That is not true. The hon. Member cannot even have read it. The paragraphs about the future of television make it absolutely clear that the Pilkington Committee wanted more channels, first another channel for the B.B.C. and then other channels for the I.T.A. in a few years' time. For the hon. Member to argue like that shows that he cannot even have read the crucial paragraphs of the Report on this matter and it is a disgrace that he should castigate a report which he has not even read. That sort of thing is an abuse of our procedure.

One of the reasons why we cannot be so precipitate as to put the date of 1965 in the Bill is that it is impossible for the Government to commit a future Government. It is as simple as that. These things are not done in our legislation. No Government would put themselves into such a stupid position as to insist that a future Government, whatever their political complexion, must do something on a given date. Yet that is precisely what the Amendment proposes. Even if they did, it would be meaningless, because any future Government could simply say that it would repeal the provision immediately and would refuse to be bound by the decision of a previous Government to fetter their activities. We never do these things in the House of Commons and there is no valid precedent for an Amendment on these lines.

There is a second and even more important reason. I am not sure that hon. Members opposite appreciate what they have put in their own Amendment. It says that not later than 1st October, 1965, the Postmaster-General "shall" grant the Authority a licence for a second channel. That means that in 1965, come what may, comefair wind or foul, come economic crisis or boom, come war or peace, whatever the circumstances may be, the Government of die day shall grant a licence to the Independent Television Authority. That is not permissive. It might be permissive for the I.T.A. to open a second channel when it has the licence, but it would not be permissive for the Postmaster-General. He would have no right to say that the national resources should not be used for the purpose.

This is a stupid provision to attempt to write into a Bill in this modern age. It is not permissive in any valid sense, because the I.T.A. could cock a snook at the Government of the day and say, "We do not care whether there is an economic crisis. We have been given a licence and we shall start a second channel and spend all the millions of pounds on the capital equipment involved and you can go to blazes, because it is in the Act and we will do it whatever you may say".